Lou Lamoriello failed to land a big fish over the summer to improve the NY Islanders roster in order to help solidify them as a Stanley Cup contender. Instead, the Isles will be relying on their depth throughout the season in order to return to the playoffs.
Before a dreadful 2021-22, the Islanders went to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals only to lose in long, hard-fought series' against a juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning team. Unlike Tampa, which has a number of elite players, the blue and orange rely on the fact that they have a bunch of quality players in their lineup with the absence of true elite talent save for Mathew Barzal and Ilya Sorokin. Noah Dobson can put himself in that conversation, too, but he'll need to show last season wasn't just a one-off. The Islanders' depth was and still will be how they will have success if they can rebound in 2022-23.
Islanders Roster Still Deep
The Islanders are built to roll all lines equally for an entire 60 minutes. If they are going to be contenders it's because of elite goaltending along with their ability to maintain fresh legs utilizing their depth throughout the lineup.
Sorokin is now the number one goaltender for the Islanders but keeping Semyon Varlamov means the Isles have two number one goaltenders as you could pluck the 34-year-old veteran and place him on a less fortunate team and he could easily be their starting goaltender. Having the Sorokin - Varlamov tandem allows Lane Lambert to not run Sorokin into the ground during the regular season and if an injury happens to one of them, the Isles don't have to panic as many other teams would.
The blue line should be much improved compared to last season and more importantly, a lot younger The Islanders are anticipating a healthy Ryan Pulock who missed 26 games due to injury last season, and it's not unreasonable to believe he can return to his 2019-20 form when he contributed 35 points. Out are veterans at the tail end of their careers, Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara, and in are Alexander Romanov and possibly Robin Salo, Sebastian Aho, or Dennis Cholowski. Romanov, who was acquired on draft night, could end up being an under-the-radar home run for the Isles, too, as the defensive defenseman is just 22 years old, but could have some untapped potential in the offense department. There's also something to be said about the addition by subtraction with Chara and Greene no longer in the Islanders plans.
If Dobson continues to build on his game, as he did last year, he could be on the verge of being a first-pairing defenseman. Scott Mayfield should continue to be a steady presence on the third pair to buoy one of the Islanders' choices for their sixth defenseman.
When it comes to the Isles' forward lines everyone's question will be "do they have enough offense?" Last year the Isles finished 23rd in the regular season in terms of goals per game. However, Lamoriello, as he said in his press conference this week, is a believer in goal - differential. While the Isles lack a superstar goal scorer, they should be able to throw four quality lines on the ice every night. Other than Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Zach Parise, every other forward on the roster should be looking at a rebound performance in 2022-23 with last season's obstacles in the rearview mirror. If Oliver Wahlstrom and/or Kieffer Bellows can take a big step forward like Dobson did last year that would be huge for the Isles' success this season.
There is a world in which you can see Nelson and Lee have repeat 30-goal seasons, while Kyle Palmieri, Anthony Beauvillier, J.G. Pageau, Barzal, and Wahlstrom all pot 20 themselves as most have done before, and Wahlstrom certainly has the potential. If all those dominoes fall, it certainly equates to what one impact forward could have provided.
Is Lamoriello Right?
Lamoriello at the end of last season and then again in his press conference this week stated how much he believes in this team. Betting on himself and his roster by not making any significant changes after July 7th means if things don't go well, there could be some significant changes in management.
The key question going into this season is are the Islanders still the team that went to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals in recent history or are they the team that missed the playoffs last year?
One has to consider that many teams in the Eastern Conference have greatly improved over the last couple of years which could make things more difficult for the Islanders in terms of them still being a contender. At this stage, unless something out of the blue happens we know what the Islanders roster will be.
The Islanders have to prove that their depth and how difficult they are to play against still holds true and because of that, they are going to be a team to be reckoned with according to Spittin' Chiclets' Ryan Whitney. However, if age has started to catch up and the lack of enough quality youngsters contributing to wins is apparent, then the Isles could certainly look more like last year's team.
Lamoriello believes in this team, their chemistry, and their depth. As unpopular as Lou currently is, he wants to win more than anyone else and he knows what it takes to have a championship club. Those two things should be something the Islanders fan base can hang their hat on.